The Microcosm Interview with Ayun Halliday, author of the Zinester’s Guide to NYC!
Our brand-new New York City DIY travel guide Zinester’s Guide to NYC is out now and we’re helping throw a release party at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in SoHo on November 11th. We talked to Ayun about that, her zine The East Village Inky, and much much more!
Q: Why do you live in New York? Why not Alaska? Tokyo? Omaha? Indonesia?
A: I have a strong cardiac preference for New York. I have wanted to live here since I was a little girl in Indiana, where I was once overheard informing a playmate that I was a city dude. For my money, what little I have of it, there is no better city on earth in which to be that dude.
If Sam Shepard’s 1978 play Curse of the Starving Class is to believed, Alaska is “all frozen and full of rapers.” A hypothesis not borne out by the month I spent in Juneau, but still, one of the greatest lines in American theater history.
Tokyo I will visit any time you pay me! But I have never been to a Tokyo neighborhood that did not feel like Japan, whereas there are many neighborhoods in NYC that give me the impression I am no longer in the United States. I would miss that if I were to live in Tokyo. (I do wish our department stores had their wonderful food selections…)
Omaha I cannot say anything good or bad about, having never visited there, but I will say that my friend Jeff is not only redesigning my website, he is a son of Omaha. He recently passed through it on a road trip with our mutual friend Kathryn, and when asked what his favorite stop of the whole tour was, he picked Omaha, because no one ever visits Omaha, and it was so thrilling to be able to show someone else around.
Indonesia, again, I will visit any time you pay me! I had fantasies of maybe moving to Bali one day, plying my trade as a massage therapist, but… when it comes to relaxation, I’m rather dependent on knowing I have a hundred options at any given time. Movie theaters, bookstores, cultural events, museums, hole in the wall restaurants from every conceivable culture, eccentrics of every age, race, and creed riding with me on the subway… I would like to have an Indonesian style bathroom though, with a squat toilet, and a big jar of water with a dipper for throwing it over your head.
Q: My 6th grade English teacher just asked me to ask you to give us one sentence about each book you’ve written since birth…
A: The Big Rumpus is about a period in my life when I was totally immersed in motherhood, running around New York City with two little kids in tow.
No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late is a semi-scatological, low budget travel memoir, as well as a knee jerk response to Seal Press’ suggestion that I should write a sequel to the Big Rumpus.
Job Hopper revisits some of the crappy day jobs I had when I was an actor.
Dirty Sugar Cookies is a bildungsroman with recipes and the greatest index in the world, though Joe Biel’s index for the Zinester’s Guide to NYC is a close second.
Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo is 32 pages long, was illustrated by Dan Santat and is best read aloud to a bossa nova beat.
The Zinester’s Guide to NYC is a dream come true, and I will spend the rest of my life mentally adding to it.
Peanut is a graphic novel about a girl who fakes a peanut allergy, with illustrations by Paul Hoppe, who would no doubt join me in encouraging you to buy many copies of it when it is published in July 2011.
There are also two unsold picture books and a novel that could use another go in the rock tumbler. Interested publishers should present themselves forsooth. I mean forthwith.
Q: My 6th grade English teacher (who is turning into a total pest) asked me to ask you to sum up your zine, TheEast Village Inky, in less than 50 words, using the words “cantaloupe,” “Mr. T.,” and “rabbit fur.”
A: What is this, Twitter? The East Village Inky is a handwritten, quarterly chronicle of my life in NYC, as well as a time lapse portrait of my children, when viewed as a hold. No cantaloupe, Mr. T., or rabbit fur, but these topics may well be covered in upcoming issues.
Q: What are your five favorite pieces of NY-related art?
A: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side by Magnetic Fields
Next Stop, Greenwich Village
New York City by Cub, and the cover by They Might Be Giants
An essay about the General Slocum memorial David Rakoff read aloud on episode 194 of This American Life, shortly after September 11, 2001
Q: If you were taking my 6th grade English teacher on a one day tour of New York where would you take her?
A: Oh lord, not her again. How about a downtown literary whirlwind? The Strand, Idlewild, Bluestockings, Housing Works Bookstore Café, St. Mark’s Books, and Unopressive, Non-Imperialist Bargain Books… we could have a browse every time we run across a street seller. I’d tell her to add the 2000 documentary Bookwars to her Netflix queue. Then because she is a closet Flight of the Conchords fan, I would take her past Bret and Jemaine’s apartment on Henry Street, which puts us in spittin’ distance of Bar 169, (also a location on the series). How convenient. I could no doubt use a drink. Though I could also get my drink at KGB or Happy Ending, both of which have excellent and frequent readings. If Teacher’s not turned off by Happy Ending’s former incarnation as a Chinatown massage parlor, I’ll send her to Babeland or Burlesque at the Beach. She can make her own way home to the Gershwin Hotel, conveniently located by Wholesale Copies and the Museum of Sex. I would also send your English teacher to the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, a front for drop in tutoring and amazing free writing workshops for kids and teens. She could buy some anti-matter…it goes to a good cause.
Q: If you were taking your first boyfriend on a one day tour of New York where would you take him?
A: Depends on how you define boyfriend, son. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, I’d tell him to hold his fire ’til April, so we can spend the whole weekend at the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art Fest. We could spend the whole weekend there. If he gets hungry, he can find an Indian restaurant in Curry Hill, and bring me back something, since I’m thinking of ante-ing up for a booth.
Q: If you were taking the President of the United States on a one day tour of New York where would you take him?
A: I’m going to assume that for him, it would be a relief to be treated like a regular civilian, so we’d start with breakfast at Panya (I recommend the curry pan, fatten him up a bit), then make our way down to the Wall Street Baths (so he’d have to bring his bathing suit). Lunch at the Vegetarian Dim Sum House, followed by a self-guided walking tour of Chinatown with stops for coconut buns and souvenirs for his daughters from BJ99. If he wants some exercise, we can do the Monkey Bars in Columbus Park. Then like most visitors to NYC, unaccustomed to so much walking, he’d probably be pooped, so we could recharge our batteries by seeing a movie at the Sunshine. Then we could go book shopping, or alternatively thrift shopping (if it was Wednesday, I would insist we go to Salvation Army since it’s family day and everything’s half off.) If he’s really into thrifting, we’d go to the Thing in Greenpoint. Eventually, we’d make our way back to Otto’s Shrunken Head for cheap drinks and a spin in the photobooth. We’d get some tacos at the Zaragoza Grocery on Avenue A, and finish the evening at Decibel Sake Bar, where I would not be above using the President’s VIP status to jump to the head of the line. If he’s really into burning the midnight oil, maybe I could be talked into accompanying him to Mehanata, the Bulgarian bar.
Q: If you had one hour to live and you had to spend it doing something amazing in NY where would you go?
A: Maybe to the top of the Empire State Building—I’ve never been there before. I’d have to be allowed to go to the front of the line, though. Otherwise, I’d probably just go embrace an arch of the Brooklyn Bridge and sing “New York, New York,” and think about how I’ll soon be flung off it, in ash form.
Q: Finally, Tell us about the 11/11 book release party…
A: Oh, it’s going to be so awesome. A half dozen or so musicians from the Bushwick Book Club will be playing original songs inspired by the guidebook. Many contributors will be on hand for the mini-zine fair. If you’re the sporting type, you may wind up vying for exciting prizes in the live ZG2NYC $2 Pyramid onstage game show. It’s my Hoosier homeboy Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday, so there will be a short reading in his honor. We’ll also be reading a few of our favorite listings. And it’s the Day that Most Resembles Corduroy, so please dress appropriately. Full disclosure: food and drinks aren’t free, but they are cheap, and all purchases will help Housing Works Bookstore Café in their fight to end homelessness and AIDS. Speaking of money, bring some, so you can guidebook up—make things easy on yourself by securing a copy for everyone on your holiday shopping/obligation list!
The Zinester’s Guide to NYC Book Release Celebration, Zine Fair, and Reading
Thursday, November 11, 2010, 7–8:30 pm
Housing Works Bookstore Café
126 Crosby St (btwn Houston & Prince) NYC, 212-334-3324
FREE to the public!
Food and drink available for purchase
The book: https://microcosmpublishing.com/catalog/books/3038/
The author: http://ayunhalliday.com/